Aero India: HAL showcases new helicopter designs
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is displaying two new indigenous helicopters at the Aero India airshow in Bangalore - a mock-up of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and the flying prototype of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH).
The new LUH is in the 3-ton class and is a totally indigenous design slated to help replace India's aging Cheetahs and Chetaks.
‘Our target is that the first airframe will be ready for ground testing by the end of the year,' said K. Mahabaleshwara Bhat, deputy general manager of the LUH Project Management Cell.
Bhat revealed that the LUH prototype, which is currently undergoing its detail design and analysis phase, would begin flying in early 2013.
The LUH project was sanctioned in February 2009 by the Ministry of Defence as part of an overall requirement for 384 craft under the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter programme. Of this projected requirement, 187 LUHs will be built by HAL for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army.
Significantly smaller than the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), specified functions for this single-engine multirole craft include medevac, troop transport, VVIP, and reconnaissance and surveillance. An armed version will follow, with structural hardpoints being integrated into the design for this optional fit. The weapon pylons would be similar to that of the Dhruv Weapon System Integrated (WSI) variant.
Bhat said he was pleased the project was on schedule, with HAL able to capitalise on its experience with the Dhruv. This means the design is much more integrated from the start. The main components to be sourced from overseas include the engine, standard avionics fit, electrics and actuators/hydraulics package, with the majority of components being made locally.
HAL revealed an engine has not been selected yet, with the requirement calling for an output of 1,000kW, and 550kW at 6,000m altitude.
The MoD is studying engine options from Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell and Turbomeca, with a decision due in ‘the coming months'.
A Turbomeca representative confirmed the French company was pushing hard for HAL to adopt the Turbomeca-HAL Shakti engine.
Meanwhile, the LCH made its public flying debut during the air show, while a second static prototype appeared in a digital camouflage scheme.
Dr. Prasad Sampath, general manager of HAL's Rotary Wing Research & Design Centre, said the second prototype would fly within one or two weeks. The project is at the stage of integrating basic flight testing, and Dr. Prasad declared: ‘We've learned a lot from making the Dhruv. There haven't been any major issues, but we're constantly adding things to improve the design.'
Two Shakti engines power the LCH to a maximum speed of 268km/h and service ceiling of 6,500m.
Prasad claimed the 5.8-ton LCH was ‘probably the most agile design in the world because of its rotor'.
Certification is expected in 2013, and the aircraft should be inducted by 2014. The IAF has ordered 65 craft, and the army will soon order double approximately twice this number. In addition Prasad said there could well be a future for the LCH on the export front.
By Gordon Arthur, Bangalore
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